The Ever-Expanding Arse, OR, Don’t Read This If…

By ‘Ever-Expanding Arse’, I do not mean the straw-headed, venomous, bigot who currently resides in the White House (Though you feel free to apply this if you want).

I mean MY arse (Yes, in the UK, we call our backsides arse, not ass, as the American way. An ass is a kind of donkey to us). As a writer, I spend a lot of time, and I mean A LOT, sitting on my arse. Sitting for long periods is not good for us, apparently, humans were not designed to sit around all day, with our bodies bent at angles, drinking tea (or coffee, or gin) and eating carbohydrates like there is no tomorrow.

You see, in my head I look like this…

glamswimsuit

 

But in reality, I’m more like this…

swimsuit

 

So this morning, I decided to take up my routine that I have neglected for about a year; and went for a brisk walk in the local park. By brisk walk, I actually mean a pain-inducing hotness in my right knee. I have put on quite a bit of weight since taking up this writing malarkey. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not huge, or obese, but things do wobble, even when I’m stationary. Writers take note – Sitting for long periods only expands the buttocks, not the mind. A walk in the outdoors, fresh air, mobilisation of the limbs, can assist with brain function – go on, try it and see.

Which brings me onto my ‘OR’. Don’t Read This If… you like dogs!

In the park, especially in the mornings, there are always LOTS of dog walkers and their fluffy companions. I like dogs, I do. I would like to own one, but, I am not, I repeat NOT, prepared to pick up its crap; and neither, it seems, are many dog owners. There was so much dog crap lying around, you could have made a poo monument to dog walkers.

So, there I was, minding my own business, when I see two small dogs on the path ahead. Their owner or owners were chatting in a faecal enveloped aura many metres away. One of the dogs was a poodle (If there is one breed of dog I do dislike, it is the poodle), it stared at me, it tried to stare me down, really; but I was having none of it, besides I was wearing my sunglasses. When I refused to pet or even acknowledge it, the creature began trotting alongside and barking at me – its tail was not wagging readers! I put my hands in my pockets for fear it would take a woolly leap and snap them off. I strode past the owner with a ‘look’ on my face, she apologised, I know she did this because even though I had earphones in and The Kinks were filling my ears, I saw her mouth form the word ‘sorry’. Firm in my smug belief that she was an idiot, I continued without acknowledgement.

Then I remembered what a friend said to me, many moons ago, about poodles. “Have you ever noticed,” he said, “How the space between the front paws and the back paws are just the right size to fit your foot?” Visions of sparsely-furred poodles flying through goalposts came to mind. It brought a smile to my face. I continued on my limping, burning, wobbling way.

The moral of the story folks is; writers should take daily exercise and…no, it isn’t. There is no moral, I’m just a writer with an ever-expanding arse who can’t bear poodles, or Chihuahuas, or terriers.

 

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Now there’s a pooch worth having

 

 

 

 

 

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Infantilising the English Language – or Not…

Many of you will have noticed that I usually write and post on Mondays and Fridays – today I have a free day, so you lucky, lucky people get an extra this week!!

 

In the UK, there is and has been a habit of making regular words into a kind of ‘baby talk’. I don’t know if other countries do this – I would be interested to hear what readers from India, Germany, America and so forth, use in their day to day speech.

Of course, growing up British, these words were not unusual to me. As I reached adulthood and my world of contacts expanded, I realised that not everyone in the UK uses these words, though they may know what they mean (sometimes), some words are regional.

I had thought it was because we hadn’t grown up, as a nation, linguistically, research proved me wrong. I trawled through many online dictionaries, as well as my trusty ‘real life’ actual dictionary in book form.

N.B: Don’t get your shortened alterations confused with British slang; not the same.

 

I’m going to give you just a flavour of what I mean:

 Butty – also buttie:  Northern English – A filled or open sandwich. E.G. ‘a bacon butty’. This originated in the 19th Century, from buttered bread, buttery, butty!

Sarnie: British informal – a sandwich. E.G.  ‘…two crates of beer and a plate of sarnies.’   Probably originated in the 20th century; from Northern or dialect pronunciation of the first syllable of sandwich. N.B. I disagree with this; pronunciation of the word sandwich in Northern England uses a flat vowel ‘a’ as in cat. In the South, they pronounce this as ‘ar’ so the word could only have come from the south surely?

Telly: British Informal – television. E.G. ‘he’s watchin’ the telly in the front room’. First recorded in 1935-40; tel (evision) + -y.

Cardy: Short for cardigan. E.G. ‘she had a hole in the sleeve of her cardy’. Traced to the 1960’s.

cardy
Veronica’s cardy was knit from reinforced steel, thus keeping her in a permanent pose.

 Welly – also wellie: Short for wellington boot. E.G. ‘I lost my blue welly’. Use of this contraction can be traced as far back as 1817, but became most commonly used from the 1970s onwards.

Chocky Bicky  – also choccie biccie: A chocolate biscuit. E.G. ‘I like a choccy biccy with a cup of tea’. I couldn’t find the origins of this, but I do know they say it in Australia.

Jim Jams: That’s pyjama’s to you! E.G. ‘I’m getting my jim jams on when I get home from work’. Originated in the early 20th century: abbreviation of the pronunciation; pie-jim-jams, alteration of pyjamas.

Baccy: Tobacco, particularly the self-rolling brigade use this. E.G. ‘got any baccy mate? I’m all out’. By shortening and alteration of the word to-bacc-o, we end up with baccy. First Known Use: 1821.

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Sister Ermintrude and co enjoyed  the new baccy they were growing on Mother Superior’s allotment plot.

We also say words to children because either they have onomatopoeic qualities or to avoid saying the ‘real’ words!!! So a cat becomes a ‘pussy cat’, (much hilarious usage ensued in TV sitcoms of the 1970’s) or kitty. Bobo’s – sleep. Wee wee – urinate. Poo poo – a shit. Woof Woof– dog. Brum brum – car. Birdy – bird. Moo moo – cow. Ducky – duck. Horsey – horse.

You can see a pattern here can’t you?! If you stick a ‘y’ on the end, that generally works – no don’t be an idiot! You can’t put it on the end of chair – chairy? Really? We aren’t that dumb! Or you can repeat the same word. I t goes on endlessly, and I have encountered a huge amount of ‘baby talk’ dating back to the 1920s and 1930’s, primarily from the upper classes. They seemed to have had a penchant for developing a sickly, fluffy, hurl inducing way of speaking to animals and people they were very fond of –  Ickle wickle is a prime example. (I think I’m going to vomit).Working class folk were far too busy in the mines and pits and ship building yards, rolling their baccy into ciggies, to have time to develop a child-adult-lovers collective language.

I love Dorothy Parker‘s writings and attitude; she once worked for the New Yorker and did a review of A.A. Milne’s ‘The House At Pooh Corner. Parker wrote under the pen-name of Constant Reader. She purposefully mimicked the baby talk when dismissing the book’s syrupy prose style: “It is that word ‘hummy,’ my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up.”  Richard Thompson even wrote a song about it, Baby Talk, in which he implores his sweetheart to grow up – ‘I’m sending you back to nursery school, When you start talking you sound like a fool’.

Time for a cuppa and a choccy biccy.

Bye bye for now weaders!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surreal-is-it?

‘Good morning, good morning, good morning, it’s another lovely day in the village’

Surrealism was founded by the poet André Breton in Paris in 1924, it was an artistic and literary movement that proposed that the Enlightenment—the influential 17th and 18th century intellectual movement that championed reason and individualism—had suppressed the superior qualities of the irrational, unconscious mind. Surrealism’s goal was to liberate thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive boundaries of rationalism.

I believe that the Surrealists were the Punks of their age, they were non-conformists, experimental, breaking the boundaries of the social, political and creative order of the time, and not giving a toss what people thought in the process.

Surrealism rejected logic and reason and prized the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological with startling juxtapositions. Through the use of unconventional techniques such as automatism and frottage, Surrealist artists attempted to tap into the dream-world of the subliminal mind.

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The Mystery of The Fireplace – Andre Breton 1947 – 1948

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This is not a Pipe – Rene Magritte 1929

 

Surrealist cinema was a modernist approach to film theory, criticism, and production with origins in Paris in the 1920s. They shocked the world with their imagery, sometimes absurd, often confusing, but always fascinating. Throughout, there is an obsession with sex and death and our relationship with them.

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Une Chien Andalou. Luis Buñel. 1929

 

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L’age D’or. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. 1930.

 

Surrealism fell off the creative radar for some time; the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and the dreary, tight-laced, emotionally paralysed 50’s made the country an incredibly dull place. Children were seen and not heard all over again, men worked, women cooked. Nice girls did not smoke, did not have sex before marriage, did not drink, did not go to pubs, did not show their knees, they learnt to be nurses and secretaries, carers and comforters. (All rather Victorian).

Then Surrealism took an odd turn, it became comedic, or at least a kind of mushroom or LSD stoked journey through the director’s mind. TV Shows such as The Prisoner, 1967 and Monty Pythons Flying Circus 1969 (In the UK, not sure about elsewhere)

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I am not a number!

 

 

 

I absolutely loved The Prisoner and Monty Python – though I must have been watching them second time around (I was too young when they were originally released), both had an impact on my child’s mind; I think a Surrealist worm crawled in and laid an egg, and waited to be born in my adulthood.

One of my favourite contemporary surrealist directors of cinema is David Lynch. If you do not want to read reams of literature; or watch all those older films to understand Surrealism, I direct you to the world of Mr Lynch. The man is a natural; when it comes to surrealism, the man is so in touch with his own weird, that as a viewer, you are either repelled or drawn in; like one of his ants, to a severed ear!

I recommend you start with Wild At Heart, not so weird that you will be put off (if you’re one of those sensitive types), progress to Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, then when you have the hang of it, dive into Eraserhead!! Go on, I dare you! This has to be THE weirdest, most Surreal film I have ever seen in my life.

 

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                       David’s hairstyle was ahead of the curve.                         Eraserhead. David Lynch. 1977

 

Apart from Mr Lynch, there was really nobody else making surreal films. Then the  1990’s saw a kind of revival of Surrealism, and those of us who went to art schools and colleges pretty much ‘got it’, straight away. The Ren and Stimpy Show, 1991 was a cartoon series following an over-friendly, stupid cat and a neurotic, very highly strung Chihuahua dog.

After Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s – Big Night Out and Shooting Stars 1995, which is definitely art school Dada meets Surrealism, the dark flavour began to return in the form of The League of Gentlemen, 1999. Brilliantly written, stunningly obtuse, irrational or scary characters – see Papa Lazarou or Hilary Briss and tell me that’s normal!

 

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‘You’re my wife now, Dave’
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‘They weren’t pork.’

The Mighty Boosh, 2003 was a lighter, but still very surreal series that came into our lives, and then the League of Gentlemen team returned with Psychoville, 2011 – think angry, mentally scarred clowns and you get the picture.

Personally, I like my surrealism dark and disturbing, not sure why, but it gives me the willies more than any horror film – if you like a good willie watch TLOG!

Then I began to wonder where all the surrealism was in literature. And realised; it transformed itself into Magical Realism. This can be a difficult one to define – Magical Realism is not fantasy, it is not about magic (though there may be some ‘magical’ elements), it is not escapist fiction. It portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realistic tone; so a dead grandmother is not seen as an other-worldly ghost, but is in the narrator’s here and now. It brings fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance.

Authors of this genre include –

  1. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. (My all-time favourite)

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  1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

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  1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.

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  1. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.

 

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So do we have any Nouveau Surrealists? Is that even a term? What would a Nouveau Surrealist look like, sound like, taste like!

It would amuse please me greatly if any of my readers watched or read anything I had mentioned here today, please, give it a go, if you haven’t already…

Go and get your weird on…

Go forth and be SURREAL people…

 

Female Superheroes

Where are all the female superheroes?

Have you ever noticed how few known female superheroes there are?

Go ahead and name some….

I bet if I asked you to name artists from history, they would be mostly male, if I asked you to name only female artists, I’m guessing it would take you longer.

I bet you would also have to think a little, not so much, of the names of female authors – not doing too badly in that department, though female writers go through phases of exposure in the media, the general trend seems firmly bent towards male authors.

But today I am interested in the superhero, or graphic novel hero, comic-book persona; whatever.

Deadpool-Merc-with-a-Mouth
You kiss your mother with that mouth?!

Most of us; especially those who take an interest in this genre, will have noticed the recent explosion of ‘super-hero’ movies being touted to us popcorn-munchers. Today I watched Deadpool, for the first time. I know! Where have I been?  Right? Resisting the urge is my reply (I’m not a huge fan of Ryan Reynolds, usually) however, I really enjoyed it. It made me laugh, it made me groan (in the right places), the action was action-y, and not too much of it, the dialogue humorous. I can’t bear those directors that think if they put a tonne of CGI and violent crashes/fights/explosions/speeding trains/etc in, then it will make a good movie – IT DOESN’T – it is tiring on the eyes and leaves no room for narrative development.

Deadpool had a good balance. I loved his wisecracking ways, and have to admit, I haven’t actually read the comic (eek!). But it got me started, again, on my rant of – where are all the female comic superheroes? Wonder Woman? Pah! I saw the original TV show, it was horrible. (And isn’t Wonder Woman a bit of a crappy name?) I want a female superhero/anti-hero, who is smart, and sassy, who will make an impact and be remembered as much as Batman – and mostly – I want her to be British! ( Other European nations are acceptable)

Search the internet all you like, British heroes are a rare breed; some websites even include Sherlock effing Holmes! He’s not a superhero! I like him, don’t get me wrong, and he’s a genius dude, but he is not a comic superhero!

I know there are female graphic artists and writers out there, and I take my hat off to them, it’s a real hard slog. But I want the storylines and art to equal the male, and I rarely find that. I want  Alan MooreNeil GaimanGrant MorrisonBrian Bolland and Mike McMahon, John Wagner, Alan Grant, Pat MillsAngela Kincaid Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Mike McMahon, Dave Gibbons. Fans might see a pattern emerging in that list; they all work; or have worked for 2000 AD comics. I want a female Sláine or Deadpool (I know they made a Lady Deadpool, but, meh). The closest character creation, for me, was Jessica Jones – but she’s American.

slaine
Slaine by Simon Bisley

So, please, please, please, can someone, somewhere create me a female superhero to be proud of.

Thank you.

(And British)

P.S: don’t put her in a figure hugging 1940s latex suit – unless it is done, like Deadpool, with tongue firmly in cheek – yours, not hers!

 

Jessica Jones

You shoot that gun at me–I will pull that bullet out of my ruined four hundred dollar leather jacket…and I will shove it up your ass with my pinky finger. And which one of us do you think that will hurt more? “

 Jessica Jones

 

 

I still haven’t a clue – sometimes…

I am a little late updating my blog this week, apologies. I went shopping this morning. Yeah, I shop; too old for my mum to do it (and even if she did it would be all kilts and scone shoes!) I needed new jeans for work and a shirt; I had vouchers left from Christmas, I hate shopping, but it’s a necessary evil – wouldn’t want to subject the world to my naked, flabby torso!

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Anyhoo, one shop which I have patronised for about 20 years now, was extremely disappointing, the range was poor, and there was no style consistency that made it the brand I am used to. It looked like a hotchpotch of clothing from various stores. And it got me thinking about how authors write.

Who do you write for? Are you the kind of author who is so familiar with their audience that the stories just flow? Or are you so familiar with your audience that you daren’t stray from the style they like? Do you even have/know your audience? Are you writing in a fixed style/genre, even though you’re a ‘new’ writer? Is it bad to write different styles or should you stick to one?

I don’t know!

You’re you. I’m me.

But regarding my own writing – I’m relatively new to this ‘business’, having been applying myself to it seriously only for the past 4 years. I dove straight in with a novel. I was attending The Asylum in Lincoln; it is the largest annual Steampunk Convention in Europe. I attended a writing class run by Sam Stone, author of delights such as “Kat on a Hot Tin Airship. We all had to write the opening line of a story, I didn’t win the competition, but received some very encouraging responses and went home to continue writing. The story is finished, (it took three years) the manuscript doing the rounds! But afterwards I read “The Drowned World” by J.G Ballard; at the end of the book was a list of quotes from the author and one of them stuck with me – he advised new writers to NOT to go straight in with a novel, for how can you know what your style is? What genre suits you? He suggested writing lots of short stories in different genres and to keep doing it until you found your own.

OrHi 77466
Faced with the plethora of genres to chose from, Alex sank into a state of lethargy.

 

I suppose these days, many people who think they want to write, do it because they want to write ‘that style of story’. I thought I wanted to write Steampunk. I have since written horror, sci-fi, dark humour, poetry, speculative fiction, children’s and more. I’m still not sure what my genre is, though I have very strong leaning to Speculative/science fiction.

So like that shop I visited this morning, I’m not sure what to put on my author ‘shelf’, so to speak. I am still learning, I have a HUGE amount to learn, I write daily. I write short stories, flash fiction, all genres, I enter competitions, I submit all over the place. I carry a notebook everywhere and write down lines, words or imagery that pops into my head; sometimes I listen in on peoples conversations and write down what they say. And sometimes, I really haven’t a clue what I am doing! HA!

It’s all grist for the mill.

Keep writing, reading, submitting and have a great day.

Back It Up!

Back It Up!

You write, you save, you write, you save…

I saved to separate folders within my Documents, each folder headed with the genre of story.

When the story was completed, I then saved to my memory stick/storage pen/USB, whatever you want to call it. So all fine, right!

Wrong!

AustinNoBackup

 

Last year I had a series of unfortunate events, regarding my laptop. To cut a long, and painful, story short, I lost about 70% of work I had written over a 3 year period – even the pen-drive had corrupted files on it. There were lots of tears, a huge amount of swearing, and the laundry basket was kicked to death.Those stories are gone, thousands of words, hundreds of hours, and why? Because I’m a dick!

backingup

So, today I am going to tell you to back up your files – Back Them Up!

There are lots of ‘places’ out there to save your work, I have selected Google Drive; for its simplicity, what do I need with fancy storage? Check out what is available, and what you feel comfortable using, do you need a truckload of space, really?
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You may want to look at –

Google Drive, Dropbox, Mega, Tresorit, iCloud, and OneDrive. I personally try to avoid anything Apple related, just a thing I have about over-large companies. If you continue to work as I did, then sooner or later, you’re gonna fall…

backupalbert

 

Keep saving your work as you go, save it to your pen-drive, then Back It Up!

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to do this, don’t be a dick  like me– Back It Up!

Now!

Why are you still here?

Go and save your stories, man!

Back It Up!!

Chuck Wendigs Flash Fiction Challenge

This week, Chuck Wending has challenged us to – CREATE YOUR OWN MONSTER

Chuck Wendigs Flash Fiction Challenge

Here’s mine:

Party Guest

 

When Charli arrived, she had brought a guest.

“What the fuck is that?!” James squawked.

“Ew” exclaimed Angie, “It’s leaking.”

“Mind the carpet; Charli!”

Kay ran to the kitchen and pulled a stack of old newspapers from beneath the sink. She placed them hastily around the thing that stood there all sad-eyed and wriggly. “Just, keep it still for a moment Charli,” Kay shouted, as she arranged sheets about the creature. Angie pulled herself into a small ball in the corner of the sofa, fear and disgust writ large on her face.

I took a suck on the pipe that James passed me. James stood and swayed over to within a couple of feet of Charli and the thing. He squinted at it through a drug induced haze, taking in the drooping tentacles or antennae, whatever the fuck they were.

“Where did you find it, Charli?” I called.

Charli plonked herself down into the nearest armchair; her left leg dangling over the arm.

“Back of the supermarket, I was seeing if there was anything useful in the dumpster-“

“You disgusting beast.” Kay said.

“For my art, Kay, for my art!”

James, Kay and I stood in a semi-circle around the guest. For it was clear that this was a living creature, despite its complete dissimilarity to any living form I had seen before. There was a strange translucent quality to the skin, it seemed to glow slightly. Every so often, a slender section of its form would extend tentatively forwards, its end wriggling like it tasted the air.

“Looks radioactive,” James said, taking a step back.

“Look!” I pointed excitedly, “It’s antennae thingy moved! I bet you hurt its feelings.”

“Feelings?” James snorted, “It looks like a fucking slug.”

“Or a sea cucumber.” Kay said.

“It’s a monster.” Angie said quietly, but no-one took any notice. No-one ever took any notice of Angie.

“It’s got teeth,” I said, “Look, you can see them through its skin; oh my god it’s gross.” The creature seemed to turn its huge-wet-eyed gaze on me. “It’s staring at me!” It was freaking me out. I sat down to roll a joint, “What are you going to do with it Charli?”

“Me?” she sounded surprised.

“Ye, you found it, so I reckon it’s your responsibility.”

“No way; it eats too much.”

James and Kay took a couple of steps back, “What do you mean it eats too much?” Kay asked suspiciously.

“It was eating out of the dumpster; boxes, crates, old fruit and veg, a piece of linoleum; y’know, all the crap.”

I sat up, “But what do you mean by, too much?” I was beginning to think it was a really bad idea that Charli had brought this thing to our party.

“It emptied a whole dumpster before it even saw me.” Charli said. She was tipping her head left then right, as if deciding which angle she should paint the thing from. “Then it grabbed a cat off a wall, and ate that.”

“Whoa!” everyone exclaimed.

Kay had backed into the kitchen, “Get it out Charli! Now!”

“Ye, Charli, before it eats one of us!” James stepped backwards over the coffee table littered with party detritus.

“I kind of like him.” Charli said.

“Him?!” Kay squeaked.

“I dunno, just looks like a him.” Charli took a long toke on the joint I handed her.

I exhaled after holding my breath for too long. “Looks like a gummy sweet.” I croaked.

The translucent monster flicked some part of itself, as if irritable. It shuffled on its wide damp base and turned its three antennae back and forth as though seeking something out.

It didn’t take us long to eat it. And it did taste like Gummy Bears, but not so sweet.